Our Town: Jefferson Park

When organizers in the Jefferson Park community of East Point ask folks over to the semi-annual progressive dinner, they expect to do some elbowing at the buffet. Last week, the general invitation to the area’s 900 residents drew about 70 diners who showed up with covered dishes to share.

“We had four different families who opened their homes for the dinner,” said diner and 9-year resident Doug Hall. “We do a dinner like this twice a year, but it’s not unusual; we have events like this all the time.”

There is so much going on in Jefferson Park that it’s hard not to be social, said Wil Miller, president of the neighborhood association. But there’s no obligation to participate; neighbors just really enjoy each other’s company.

“The first time I ever came down here, I fell in love with the place because of the neighbors,” said Miller, who has lived there since 2007. “We’re extremely social and end up spending a lot of time together. But there’s no pressure. You can be as active as you want.”

Along with the progressive dinner parties, the neighborhood shows up to share in 5K runs, a yearly yard sale, block parties and game nights in private homes.

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“We also do a weekly mixer at a local bar or restaurant where everyone gathers to catch up,” said Hall. “We have a Facebook page with more than 500 members. A lot of people jokingly call this area Mayberry because it’s such a closely-knit neighborhood with an active [homeowners] association.”

Along with a strong social network, the neighborhood boasts other attractions as well, such as a stock of affordable pre- and post-World War II housing, a nearby MARTA train station and proximity to the airport.

“I was renting in Virginia-Highland when a friend suggested I come here and look around,” said Hall. “It reminded be a lot of that area, with the vintage houses and bungalows from the 1930s. I also liked that it was so diverse. There are people who have lived here their entire lives next to young people in their 30s. And it’s the most ethnically-diverse place I’ve ever lived.”

Miller moved into the neighborhood in 2007, settling a 1940s house that is the third one his partner has owned in Jefferson Park.

“What really makes this a great place is the strong sense of community,” he said. “We all look out for each other. If you want to be part of the community, there are a lot of people who will embrace you.”

And there’s always room for volunteers to organize the next progressive dinner.

“My partner, Mark Hebert, has put this together for the last year and a half,” said Miller. He orchestrates it, gets houses to participate, does all the marketing to get people to sign up and delivers the plates, forks, knives and napkins to make sure each house is ready. With anywhere from 65 to 80 people, it’s quite a challenge!”

Each Saturday, we shine a spotlight on a local neighborhood, city or community. To suggest a place for us to visit, e-mail H.M. Cauley at hm_cauley@yahoo.com or call 770- 744-3042.

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